Skincare Debate: Are You Ever Meant to Wash a Facial Toner Off?
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If you’ve dabbled with the thought of introducing a facial toner into your skincare regimen, you should first ask yourself: ‘What am I actually looking to get out of this – might I mention *alluring* – skincare product?’.
I developed an interest in facial toner once I began to notice the dreaded traces of leftover makeup on my facial cloth after what I assumed to be a successful deep cleansing session.
Though getting into the routine of toning daily came with another question – *Should* I rinse off a facial toner, OR is the skin meant to soak it all up in order for it to serve its purpose?
Here to answer this burning question is Dr Kseniya Kobets, Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at Montefiore Advanced Care in Westchester, New York, and New York-based aesthetician, Ian Michael Crumm.
Get ready to discuss the intention behind the ingredients you’ll typically find in an exfoliating, gentle, or potent facial toner and the importance of reading your product packaging, PLUS how to best benefit from this buzzy product.
Don’t worry, we got you, so keep on reading!
Should you wash your toner off: The short answer
In Dr Kobet’s experience, most skin toners don’t actually need to be washed off, especially if they have skin-saving ingredients like salicylic acid to function on the skin.
After all, Ian echoes that “Most toners are designed to be left on the skin before applying a serum.”
In general, facial toners are intended to balance the skin’s pH, remove impurities, and prepare the skin for other skincare products.
However, those with sensitive skin types may react negatively to the active ingredients within a facial toner’s formula, so in order to prevent or decrease irritation, Dr Kobets says sensitive skin types may need to wash off the product after applying.
Your best bet is to read the instructions on the toner’s packaging to determine whether it should be washed off or left on the face, Ian tells us. If the instructions don’t give you that straightforward answer you’re searching for, our experts suggest observing how your skin responds to a toner that’s settling in – tread lightly, guys and gals.
What is toner?
A facial toner’s tonic nature, whether you prefer to lightly spritz or pat the product into your skin, can feel refreshingly hydrating or sometimes even offer a *surprise* tingling sensation that feels super revitalising!
Dr Kobets tell us that’s because facial toner formulas are designed to deliver active ingredients such as salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acids; BHAs for short), or niacinamide, to tackle and diminish clogged pores, fine lines, and pigmentation – sounds good to us!
Toners will also come packed with hyaluronic acid to add hydration to the skin. But, beware, Dr Kobets word of caution with skin toners is that many have harsh ingredients or alcohols that can all strip the skin, causing damage to its barrier’s function.
Stay *well clear* of the latter when choosing your desired face toner and take Dr Kobet’s recommendation of also avoiding toner formulas with heavy fragrances – in fact, avoid any fragrance at all if you can, your skin will thank you!
What are the benefits?
Since this light-as-water skincare product often includes invigorating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid, Dr Kobets explains that facial toners help even out the skin tone while promoting a hydrated complexion – double whammy.
And for toners that consist of salicylic acid and retinol, she says the benefits may include decreasing pore size, fine lines and wrinkles, evening out pigmentation, and decreasing oiliness of the skin.
Facial toners also work to remove excess skin debris and stubborn traces of makeup and serve as the perfect precursor for proper absorption of the skincare products to follow in your routine.
How do you use toner?
You’ll want to prime the skin with facial toner right after cleansing, and while some choose the fingertip-to-skin application method, others use cotton pads to apply the product.
Dr Kobets warns us that “You may be wasting some of the toner in the cotton pads. However, toners with salicylic acid may be too drying for the finger skin.”
The answer? Facial toner formulations have evolved as skincare brands now keep in mind that a toner packed with active ingredients, while beneficial for a myriad of concerns, might be pretty incompatible with certain skin types such as sensitive skin or dry skin.
Though even these sensitive skin types look to refine their complexion and bring out their *best* dewy glow through the use of the skincare product, as they should too have the opportunity to do so!
As someone who personally falls under the sensitive skin category, I tend to my redness-prone cheeks with Pili Ani’s Purifying Toner ($30.00/£25.00), a toner that prioritises calming and antioxidant-rich ingredients like aloe vera extract and its *star* ingredient elemi oil, extracted from the bark of the Pili Tree.
Pili Ani’s non-comedogenic and vegan toner has especially catered to my congested chin, an area of concern where blackheads aren’t afraid to come out and play!
While incorporating a skin toner into your routine isn’t absolutely necessary, it does complement cleansed skin by purifying the complexion of even the toughest product excess that may remain and removing gradual dead skin cell build-up.
Toners boost a refreshing cleanse and the efficacy of the products that come after — our serums, moisturiser, and mists — by enhancing how well our skin absorbs them.
Meet the experts
Celebrity aesthetician and beauty expert Ian Michael Crumm is co-host of the BeautyCurious podcast with Dr Elyse Love
Ian is known for his passion for skincare and sun safety and is actively involved in philanthropic efforts to promote skin cancer awareness, and believes that #ProtectedSkinWins.
Dr Kseniya Kobets is the Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at Montefiore Advanced Care in Westchester, New York, with a clinical focus on the cosmetic treatment of patients using cutting-edge modalities for rejuvenation, acne, rosacea, acne scarring and hair restoration.